Finding the right home to get your startup off the ground is crucial. Check out some of the best accelerators that Finland has to offer
As a startup founder, joining an accelerator is one of the best ways to boost your chances of success.
The concept of startup accelerators is recent. It only began in 2005 in Boston, when Paul Graham launched a program to help entrepreneurial students reach their potential.
Now, in 2016, incubation and acceleration programs are available for startups anywhere in the world, and there are many accelerators in the Nordic countries, especially in Finland.
How can you choose the accelerator that will support your startup to grow?
To help you pick the right program, we selected some of the best accelerators in Finland. Before sharing the list, let me tell you a bit more about how to get into one of these incubator or accelerator programs.
(Please note that there is a difference between an incubator and an accelerator. The former is about the discovery phase while the latter is about growing and scaling your startup.)
Applying and Getting into an Accelerator Program
When you apply to a startup accelerator, keep in mind that the best accelerator programs are much like top business schools.
They are very selective…
Each of them uses many criteria to evaluate startups. Here are two things that all of them have in common:
They want you to be convincing. You should know how to pitch your ideas, since you’ll need to raise money at the end of the program. And they want you to be fully committed to making your business successful.
According to this article, where Robin D. Schatz gathered information from founders and investors of US accelerators, such programs are looking for “a great team, an interesting market, and an interesting business model.”
You should also listen to this interview of David Cohen, the founder of Techstars (a top global accelerator). It will give you a detailed overview of what you should do to apply and get accepted. He also shared interesting insight about the incubator and accelerator space.
Finland has many programs that incubate and accelerate startups. In order to help you choose the one that is most suitable for your startup, here’s a list of the best accelerators.
Check it out to find the perfect match.
A Selection of the Top 11 Startup Accelerators in Finland
1. Aaltoes Summer of Startups Accelerator Program
Investment: Startups are given grants of €3,000 to €5,000
Date created: 2009
Length of the program: 9 weeks
Number of startups: More than 80
Location: Betonimiehenkuja 3 D, Espoo, Finland
Aaltoes vice president, Jesse Miettinen, calls Summer of Startups a “unique accelerator”. Here’s why:
They change the program organizers every year. Aalto University pays salaries for two program organizers for four months. These people must be students and Aalto entrepreneurship society members.
The organizers have full responsibility of the program, meaning that they have to raise money from companies and associations during the four months. The raised money is then given to the startups as grants.
The program is run every year, usually with 10-15 teams participating on average. It is concentrated on idea-stage startups. Catchbox, 720°, and LeeLuu are some examples of companies that have been turned from ideas into startups with the help of the Summer of Startups program. Thus far, they have given grants totaling around €400,000
2. Avanto Ventures
Investment: €50,000 per startup on average
Date created: March 2015
Length of the program: Incubation program of 4-5 weeks, acceleration program of 4-6 months
Number of startups: 9
Location: Henry Fordin Katu 6, Helsinki, Finland
At Avanto Ventures, there are 10 experienced specialists helping startups in multiple areas such as digital strategy, growth hacking, scaling business abroad, fundraising, etc.
They also provide a coworking space in Helsinki. Additionally, they work closely with major corporations who want to co-operate with startups, thereby helping startups build successful partnerships.
Their most successful portfolio company is mobile operator Moi.
You can read the full story about why and how Moi was founded, and also how they worked with Avanto to raise funding.
3. Gorilla Ventures
Investment: The size of investment varies depending on the startup and investment round
Date created: Autumn 2012
Length of the program: 24-36 months
Number of startups: More then 50
Location: Aleksanterinkatu 15B, Helsinki, Finland
Gorilla Ventures is a growing accelerator in Helsinki. It is a hands-on program where the founders are engaged on daily basis to drive their business. The general length of the engagement is 24-36 months and typically the value of a startup increases about 3-10 times during that period.
As they invest in early stage (pre-revenue) startups, the average size of their investments varies. One reason is that the accelerator often participates in the following investment rounds, which are bigger.
4. Turbiini Accelerator
Vertical: Innovation services, technology
Investment: No capital investment is provided
Date created: October 27th 2015
Length of the program:
Number of startups: 10
Location: Vantaa technopolis (Teknobulevardi 3, 01530 Vantaa, Finland)
Unlike conventional accelerators, Turbiini Accelerator does not invest in startups. The business model of this accelerator is not set yet.
However, this possibility of investments has not been ruled out for the future. One of their primary roles is to foster the startup ecosystem in Vantaa. This is achieved by offering startups co-working and office space. Furthermore, the focus is on technology-based pre-startups that, in reality, often need other types of support than funding in the beginning. Such support comes in the form of coaching, mentoring about customer development, and prototyping facilities.
At the moment, most accelerators are focusing on startups that have solid ideas or validated products and customers. However, pre-startups are neglected in the Helsinki Metropolitan area. Turbiini Accelerator believes it important that this segment receive support as well.
In addition, they work as a part of the Helsinki University of Applied Sciences. This brings the difference where they have identified the need to commercialize research results, which is a great source in helping startups grow.
5. Vertical — The Health Accelerator
Vertical: Wellness, health, sports
Investment: Up to €150,000
Date created: 2015
Length of the program: 4 months
Number of startups: 21
Location: Tekniikantie 2,02150 Espoo, Finland
Having a focus solely on health, wellness and sports, Vertical has built a strong partner network of industry experts and large corporations, which work with participating startups to support their market entry. Their partner companies include Samsung, TeliaSonera, Amer Sports, and Fazer, just to name a few.
Focusing only on health, wellness and sports allows Vertical to support startups in those fields better than generic accelerators are able to. In the program, Vertical focuses on helping startups go from prototype to what they call a Minimum Meaningful Product, meaning that the product is validated with users, works well, and serves a real need.
Vertical’s investment model differs from many other accelerators in the sense that the program itself is free (they do not take equity and startups do not pay in cash), but they retain a right to invest in the startups after the program.
6. Startup Sauna
Investment: No capital investment is provided
Date created: 2010
Length of the program: One month
Number of startups: 188
Location: Betonimiehenkuja 3 D 02150 Espoo, Finland
Startup Sauna is similar to Turbiini Accelerator in the sense that their program and events are totally free. They also do not invest any money in the startups. They are a non-profit, having no strings attached to the selected startups. Startup Sauna has a pay-it-forward culture and has over 80 serial entrepreneurs, investors and other industry experts as pro-bono coaches.
The program is organized twice a year and focuses on business development. This includes (but is not limited to) finding a scalable business model, understanding the target market and customers’ needs, pitching, and putting together an investor deck.
The best teams of each batch are brought to Silicon Valley after the accelerator program to get a better understanding of the US market. There they meet with investors, the media, customers, and potential partners. Once accepted to Startup Sauna, a company also gets access to Slush, the leading startup event in Europe.
7. Nestholma Accelerator
Vertical: Depends on the program
Investment: 10,000-150,000 euros per startup
Date created: 2013
Length of the program: 3 months
Number of startups: 80
Location: Depends on the program
Every program at Nestholma Accelerator has a corporate partner that actively works with the startups (for instance, providing weekly mentoring sessions). Currently they are running a program together with Nordea.
Nestholma has a hands-on approach to the training, coaching and co-development of the startups. Typically every program consists of 40-50 events, including more than 20 highly interlinked, hands-on workshops on important topics such as getting funding, marketing, and sales.
8. Vendep Startup Accelerator
Investment: 20,000-50,000 euros per startup
Date created: 2012
Length of the program: 6-24 months
Number of startups: 13
Location: Tammasaarenkatu 1, 00180 Helsinki, Finland
Vendep Accelerator and Startup Fund have already invested over 5 million euros in startups. It is possible to raise funding of up to 50,000 euros from the accelerator and up to 500,000 euros from the fund.
Vendep’s acceleration model is always tailored to fit the needs of the participating startups. Vendep provides startup founders and their team with hands-on experience in innovative web-based services to achieve rapid growth and international success.
To sum up, they do three things as a startup accelerator: provide funding, refine the business models, and help startups to acquire new customers.
Up to this point, 13 startups have participated in the acceleration program, and seven more have received funding from the startup fund.
9. xEdu Accelerator
Investment: 10 000-300 000 Euros
Date created: Unknown
Length of the program: 4 months
Number of startups: 8
Location: Siltavuorenpenger 7, Helsinki, Finland
xEdu Accelerator Program was created to help startups develop scalable, pedagogically-verified, and commercially-viable learning solutions.
xEdu provides a full startup and cross-domain ecosystem in the education field. Its community can provide your startup with mentoring, coaching, real-life environments for testing, research validation, as well as support in marketing or business planning. The accelerator has built partnerships with many global tech companies and therefore gives startups access to technology expertise.
In the xEdu program, startups work closely with world class educators and teachers to receive pedagogical expert evaluation and feedback. The team there claims to be the best education accelerator in the world, as it gives startups access to a validated customer base, expanding from Finland to all around the world.
Additionally, all the participants can use the co-working space in Fontell House.
10. Newentures Accelerator
Vertical: Energy, clean and applied ICT services
Investment: Varies between thousands and 1.5 millions
Date created: 2010
Length of the program: Varies
Number of startups: 12
Location: Kaivokatu 8B, 8th floor, Helsinki, Finland
Newentures Accelerator was created by merging two founder’s private consulting firms. So far, they have worked with 12 startups and invested around 4 million euros in total.
Newentures seeks to help startups that are innovative and radical enough to change the entire landscape of an industry. They are looking for solutions that could solve specific technological problems and make a global impact.
Unlike most other accelerators, Newe does not take a hands-on approach, but a hands-in approach. All active startups are located in their offices. “Active” means that Newentures’ partners work at the accelerated company as a CEO for some time. They own a significant share of these startups and work with them on a daily basis. Currently, there are seven active startups being accelerated.
As they are not a fund, all the investments come from their own balance sheet. Therefore, there is not a definitive time-frame for the acceleration period. The length of mentorship depends on the individual needs of each startup.
Newe’s strategic partners are recognized experts in their fields, ranging from world class designers to team coaches. Additionally, Newe provides industrial workspace, where bigger machinery can be built, tested, and prepared for shipment to customers.
11. NewCo Helsinki Accelerator
Investment: No capital investment
Date created: Originally launched in 2013, rebranded as NewCo Helsinki Accelerator in 2015
Length of the program: 6-12 months
Number of startups: More than 80
Location: Ensi linja 1, Helsinki, Finland
NewCo Helsinki Accelerator does not invest any capital in startups itself, but there is growth support under NewCo Helsinki, which provides financial support/grants. The accelerator program includes one-on-one business advisory and thematic workshops and events. They also provide participants a co-working space, meeting areas, and event facilities.
Some successful startups that have participated in the NewCo Helsinki accelerator program are Invesdor, the Nordic market leader in equity crowdfunding, and RePack, a company that provides returnable and reusable packaging.
M2Talent — a Finnish digital service company focused on recognizing and channeling people’s competencies — is a rising star too.
Applying to an Incubator or an Accelerator in Finland
The next step (after choosing the best accelerator for your startup) is the application process.
For this, you will need to prepare yourself to pitch to investors. Make sure that your pitch is well-designed and emphasizes the points that investors want to see.
Also, Finland is not the only Northern European country to host a respectable number of accelerator programs.
If you are thinking about developing your business outside of Finland, have a look at the top 6 startup accelerators in Estonia.
Estonia has a thriving tech startup scene that has been developing rapidly over the last few years, and is worth your consideration.